A Short Ode to my Favorite Park

Actually, ode is probably the wrong word since you won’t find poetry here. But I did feel the need to mark the 30th birthday of my all-time favorite Disney park.

You see, I was an odd kid (I can see your mock shocked expressions from here) and while most kids liked the glamor of the Magic Kingdom or the thrill rides of what was then MGM Studios, I couldn’t get enough of Epcot. Something about hearing that futuristic music as I entered the gates and seeing that giant geodesic sphere of Spaceship Earth enchanted me as no castle could.

In Epcot, I could see what the future would look like if I rode Horizons, a ride that has sadly left us but that I still have a crystal clear memory of, even how Dad used to let me choose how the ride would end. I also have very clear memories of the original Journey into Imagination and Dreamfinder’s marvelous presence alongside his Figment. I remember the Land before it was “that building where Soarin’ is” and the Living Seas before Nemo invaded and you got to ride in a hydrolator to Sea Base Alpha. While I love Epcot just as much today and all the new attractions, I still have a pang for the Epcot of my childhood which seems more whimsical than the Epcot of today and also more hopeful, like we were still excited for the future would bring, rather than worried about it. In a sense, the Epcot you visit today is much more concrete and based in reality than the one you would have seen on opening day.

World Showcase though seems very familiar still. Not much has changed over the years; the landscaping grew in, they updated the boring boat ride in Mexico to include Donald Duck and Martin Short narrates the Canada film. The trolls are still threatening to send us over the waterfall in Norway, the department store in Japan is still one of the neatest places to shop on property and France still has the best bakery. I was one of those kids that had to do a passport through World Showcase every trip and the thrill of seeing my name in different languages never got old. I appreciate World Showcase more now though. As a kid, Future World was my favorite but now I love exploring the countries. I think being able to explore each country’s drinks is also a plus!

So Epcot, Happy 30th – that Mimosa Royale in Morocco yesterday was for you!

(Sadly most of the photos from when I was a kid at Epcot are still actual printed photos and not digital files. Someday I need to digitize those…)

Afternoon Tea

I fell in love with tea while I studied in England. Those pesky British make sure you are addicted to cream teas from the second you land. Finding a decent afternoon tea stateside isn’t always the easiest though. So, I resigned myself to missing afternoon tea. Then, last time I was down in Walt Disney World, I dragged my mother to afternoon tea at the Grand Floridian and remembered what all the fuss was about. So, when it came time for my birthday, something I haven’t paid much attention to the last few years, I decided to have a tea party. As well as being an excuse to read lots of fun tea cookbooks, and start a places to have tea bucket list, it also meant I could try out a recipe I’d been holding onto for years. Sally Lunn’s is a famous tea shop in Bath, where I lived while in England. The shop is famous for Sally Lunn buns and it was only a few months after I got back to the States that a blog I followed posted a recipe for the famous Sally Lunn buns. However, I never really had any reason to make them. Until now.

I have lots of recipes to share from my afternoon tea but most are ones you can find in any decent tea cookbook. Jam cookies, cucumber sandwiches and a fabulous honey spice cake (which led to me have a fight with a bundt cake pan but that is neither here nor there). One thing I did learn from putting on afternoon tea is why it fell out of popularity when people stopped keeping cooks. It takes a LOT of work to put one of these together on your own. It was fun but I think next time I’ll just find a nice tea shop.

My afternoon tea spread

The Sally Lunn buns are just behind the strawberries. I made clotted cream to go with them and served them with the choice of raspberry or strawberry jam. Of everything I made for the tea, the Sally Lunns were actually the easiest and baked the best in my oven. They baked up nice and golden and tasted exactly like they should have.

Sally Lunn buns with Clotted Cream

4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/4 tsp. (1 package) instant yeast
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
4 large eggs
1 cup milk

1) In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. In small saucepan, melt butter.
2) With electric mixer, beat eggs until fluffy and pale lemon yellow, about 5 minutes. Add milk and beat until smooth, about 1 minute.
3) By hand with dough whisk or wooden spoon, add the flour mixture to the egg mixture in three additions, alternating with the melted butter and beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Cover mixture and place in refrigerator for at least 24 hours or up to three days
4) When ready to bake, remove dough from refrigerator. Stir down the dough, just a few strokes, with a wooden spoon.
5) With a 1/4 measuring cup, scoop dough into well-greased or cooking sprayed standard muffin tins.
6) Lightly butter a sheet of plastic wrap and place, buttered side down, over the buns. Let rise until puffy but likely not doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 hours. During last 15 minutes, preheat oven to 375F
7) Uncover the buns. Bake at 375 about 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Turn the buns out of the tins and cool on wire racks. Serve warm or cool completely and then store.

Clotted Cream

1 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature

1) In a small bowl, using an electric mixer, combine heavy cream and sugar. Whip until stiff peaks form.
2) Gently fold in sour cream and mix until very thick
3) Place in refrigerator and chill until time to serve

Some quick catching up

Photo by Scott Thomas

I turn 26 today peeps. Suddenly I feel very old. I know, I know, I’m hardly knocking on death’s door but I’ve been thinking a lot about what I always assumed I would be doing by 26. This was so not it but I guess it just goes to show that life has a funny way of dragging you, kicking and screaming if necessary, in the direction she wants you to go. (PS – look how I rocked the side ponytail back in the day. You know you are a kid of the ’90s when…)

News items:

1) I can see pavement again people! The streets are now slush rivers and my car is parked in a newly minted lake but this is such an improvement I can’t get that angry. Nor can I really complain that the roads have become obstacle courses to avoid the massive potholes that seem to have developed over the last three months. This may be the first birthday in a long time where the temperature is over 40 and not a flake of snow in sight. I felt the need to record it for posterity.

2) So, I finally watched Avatar this weekend. It was like Ferngully with more slaughter of the natives and no fun Robin Williams-voiced Batty Koda to make me laugh. I mean, kudos to Cameron and his team, the movie was visually stunning and the world they created fully realized which you can’t always take for granted anymore in sci-fi films. But the story was definitely unoriginal and the film was so long! I kept wondering if there was an end. I began to get bored somewhere in the middle which is never a good sign. I enjoyed it but it’s not going onto my Amazon wishlist any time soon.

3) I finally got around to reading the Betsy-Tacy books that Julie recommend to me eons ago and I am in love. I started with the high school years since Julie thought I’d find those more interesting. Think Anne of Green Gables without a tragic childhood and moved to rural Minnesota in the early 1900s and you’ll have the gist of the story. Why did no one tell me about these before?! I had serious reading withdrawal after I plowed through all the Anne books in 6th grade, these would have been perfect! I am making up for it now though – next one up is Betsy Was a Junior

I think that about brings you up to speed. I am off to enjoy my birthday Sunday 🙂